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Majority of consumers don’t trust companies to come clean about their environmental impact

London, 11 July 2024 - The majority (57 per cent) of UK consumers feel companies actively hide information about their environmental, social and economic impact, according to a new report from the cross-party think tank Demos produced in partnership with GS1 UK. 

The number rises to 63 per cent among those who base their spending decisions on the social, environmental and wider economic impact of the companies they’re buying from, or the products and services they purchase, according to today’s research. 

The report has been produced in partnership with GS1 UK, who have more than 50 years experience supporting industry transformation through the use of trusted data. 

Concerns about ‘greenwashing’ - where false or misleading reports about a company’s environmental impact are made - have grown significantly over the past few years. Demos argues that this undermines the groundswell of enthusiasm that exists for socially-minded purchasing behaviour, with its polling revealing that 65 per cent of consumers now base their purchasing decisions on the environmental impact of the product or service. 

The report argues that emerging technology can help restore people’s trust in the pledges made by companies by making the environmental and social claims they make more transparent to the consumer. 

Greater transparency can tackle the scepticism that many consumers feel about how truthful companies are when it comes to their environmental and social claims. It can also encourage a competitive spirit, incentivising businesses to place purpose beyond profit, the think tank argues. 

The report puts forward a number of policy recommendations for how this can be done, including harnessing technology and trusted data to standardise the measurement of social value, requiring information to be published on social value as part of public sector contracts, and utilising global interoperable standards already used extensively in industry. 

Hana Kapetanovic, lead researcher at Demos and author of Taming the Wild West: How technology can charter a new frontier for social value, said: 

“Consumers are extremely concerned about greenwashing, undermining a genuine desire among the public to spend their money on companies and products which strengthen our society and protect the environment. 

“The government must capitalise on advancements in technology so that when companies make significant claims about their environmental and social impact, consumers can have every confidence they are telling the truth.” 

Anne Godfrey, CEO of GS1 UK, said: 

“The way we do business needs to change. We need greater transparency and traceability to enable businesses to unlock social value and allow consumers to make more informed choices. Globally recognised standards are essential for powering the three pillars of traceability – the ability to identify, capture and share interoperable data – and we are already using this infrastructure to support businesses in adopting ambitious new commitments and making demonstrable improvements. 

“There is still much to be done if we are to transition to a more purpose-led economy, one that fosters trust and a culture of openness between businesses and their consumers, preserves our planet for future generations, and delivers genuine social and economic impact in our communities. But, if we work together to harness the power of data, technology and collaboration, we have a real opportunity to make the world, society and business better, sustainable and more transparent.” 

                                                                                                -ENDS- 

NOTES TO EDITORS

To download the full report, please visit: www.gs1uk.org/insights/thought-leadership/how-technology-can-chart-a-new-frontier-for-social-value

Methodology: the research by Demos is based on a literature review, a number of roundtables and two nationally representative surveys, conducted in April 2024, of consumer and business audiences (specifically, business leaders in companies of up to 250 employees). 

For further information or requests for interviews, contact Felix Arbenz-Caines, communications manager, Demos Phone: 07979046378 Email: felix.arbenzcaines@demos.co.uk

About Demos 

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. 

About GS1 UK 

Whether online, in store or in a hospital, the common language of GS1 global standards is helping our community of more than 60,000 organisations across the UK to uniquely identify, describe and track anything, creating greater trust in data for everyone. From product barcodes to patient wristbands, GS1 standards have been transforming the way we work and live for 50 years. We are now embarking on the next 50 years of industry transformation delivered through QR codes powered by GS1. 

GS1 UK is one of 118 neutral and independent GS1 organisations operating worldwide.